Fast and Free – Mountains 2 Beach Half

When I said I wasn’t going to over-complicate things this weekend, I was referring to the running part. And while parking 50ft from the start line ended up quite convenient, I’m not going to pretend it was simple or pretty getting there.

Race Morning All Star.

m2b park

“There’s nothing saying you necessarily CAN’T park here…”

The course is point-to-point (meaning it starts in a different place than it finishes) and instead of boarding a painful 4am shuttle, Margot, Kristee, Robyn and I created a drop off system of our own. I’d drive to the start, leave my car, and Robyn would bring us back out after since her hotel was at the finish. The race instructions said there was “very limited parking” at the start which I thought meant like, a small lot or a plaza a ways away we’d have to walk from.

NOT narrow service road partially coned-off right next to the highway with no civilization for miles and a small gravel shoulder with no markings or signs indicating whether it’s safe or legal to park there.

But that’s what we did.

m2b car

iphone hansel & gretel is dropping a pin to get back to your car (& screen cap’ing it to prove just how far BFE you were)

10 minutes before the start we finally peeled our butts from the warm seats to warm up. Other than worrying my car’d be towed/stolen/vandalized while we were gone, I was waffling ambivalence (erring heavy on the apathy side) about the race. Is this what “uncomplicated running” is going to be like? No nerves or excitement, just strolling up to the start like MEH WHATEVER and waiting for someone to talk me into ditching the race for breakfast sandwiches and coffees instead?

This should be interesting.

A few minutes before the gun Gia said hi – thanks to some mutual (internet) friends I knew she’d be there and was around my speed. Once we took off and I found myself running five steps behind her sparkle skirt the entire first mile I figured it’d be fun and less creepy to just run next to her.

We chatted, laughed, made friends with Amanda from Atlanta who’s 53 a former competitive swimmer and an Ironman, and ticked mile after mile. My legs felt great, syncing up perfectly with Gia and Amanda, and we breezed through the slightly downhill first half. Alright, maybe this “fun running” business isn’t so bad…


new friends Amanda and Gia (credit)

I swore I wasn’t going to look at Garmin the whole race. I’d considered not wearing it at all, but come on Captain Type A needs the data for obsessing over afterwards. So the splits beeped, I ignored the impulsive urge to flip my elbow out for a wrist-glance, and just kept going. Nothing but my legs and breath to measure effort on. No numbers to scare me into slowing down or pressure into speeding up.

m2b splits1-6

accidental negative splits, what?

At mile seven there’s a small hill before leveling off to sea level for the rest of the race. Which, as learned last year, after a steady dose of friendly decline flat might as well be uphill.

m2b elev

257ft net loss – not the screamer downhill it appears to be

After settling into the harder-than-it-should-feel flat, Gia voiced something I’d been trying to convince myself wasn’t happening:

“my legs are starting to feel it – I might need to slow a bit”

Unfortunately this was also the time my first-ever desire for a course porta potty came up. We ran and ran, conversation coming to a halt as we each focused on the hard miles coming up and my internal debate on whether I was dealing with period or poop cramps. Or both.

You’re welcome for that.

m2b splits7-9

And then in the name of “this is supposed to be fun and pressure-free!” I walked through a water station because MAN was I thirsty and also trying to keep bodily fluids inside where they belong. Gia and Amanda pulled away, and after a full cup of water I started trudging again, balancing tough-love “you want this!” with “fun shouldn’t hurt this bad!”

The course was doubling back so I entertained myself watching Gisele, Robyn, and Kristee/Margot run by, cheering on my stupid fast friends (as in really fast, not that they’re stupid. clarification) and trying to drum up a little drive for the final 5k.

Ok, one more water walk-through. THEN we go.

m2b splits10-11

the trick to near-perfect even splits is walking and drinking full cups of water, apparently

Thanks to the rest I’d caught my breath, passed the shit/puke threat, and found a little spring in my legs for the finish. Gia was about 100 meters ahead and Amanda ahead of her. I set my sights on them, wanting to finish what we’d unintentionally started together.

I caught Gia and told her it was time to hurt, grabbing her elbow lightly hoping she’d follow my lead. She did.

m2b splits12

We chased down Amanda, who was running steady as a metronome, as we hit the 12 mile marker. She asked how we were feeling and I threw the only thing I could think of over my shoulder as we dropped pace again for the final mile.

“Time to go!”

We hit the beach path and I switched into track mode. For some reason thinking of distance in meters and laps seems more palatable at the end than miles or minutes. “just a 16 left” – “head down, last 800 YOU LOVE 800s” – “BELL LAP GOOOOO!!!!”

(it should be noted I never actually ran track, but have been watching a lot of Flotrack videos and super fan’ing Oiselle pro Kate Grace so in my imagination I get bell laps)

m2b splits13m2b2

(credit, again – thanks allison!)

The finish finally came into sight and I willed my legs to turn over just a little faster. I heard Alison yell my name and looked up to take in the modest, yet enthusiastic crowd cheering along the beach. When the clock came into focus and I saw a 1:39xx I seriously about shit myself. My face spread into a huge smile and I crossed the finish with a brand new PR, while checking “Sub 1:40” off my goal list.

(final sprint 6:08 pace)

m2b official

m2b finish

Gia came in just a few seconds later, and we laughed and hugged, both incoherently babbling something about PRs and Thank Yous and ‘I cant believe it!”s. Complete strangers two hours ago, now bonded thanks to this crazy sport and goals accomplished.

m2b3 gia

Mountains 2 Beach Half, 5.26.13  –  1:39.23 * (new PR)

Am I kicking myself for walking through those two water stops or not pushing a little harder when it got tough? Nah. I mean maybe a little, but I definitely wouldn’t have finished as strong as I did without the breaks. Am I going to race “blind” all the time now? We’ll see. It was definitely nice to run without pressure, and obviously it worked out quite well. But as goals and abilities change and race plans tighten up to more than “just don’t turn it into rocket science” I’ll want it I’m sure.

I can’t quit you, Garmin – but I CAN quit letting you rule the run.

As a nice cherry on top of my selfish sundae, Margot PR’d, Giselle top 10’d, Kristee and Robyn both age group placed. And in the marathon Mason (who paced all the Nuun ambassadors at Eugene) A-goal’d a 2:45 and Nicole redeemed last year’s race with a huge PR AND BQ!!

Perhaps Ojai/Ventura gets to claim PR City, CA?

And as a final note, let’s remember last weekend’s 10K at 7:42 pace that felt like death vs yesterday’s 7:35 average. Just goes to show the person that shows up race morning isn’t always who you expect. Leave that bad race baggage behind like a summy old boyfriend and line up next time with a clean slate. New day = new race.

And soak in the good ones as long as you can.

Sarah OUaL

Oh, and yes, my car was still at the start waiting for us afterwards.

34 thoughts on “Fast and Free – Mountains 2 Beach Half

  1. Loved this recap and great race!!! So glad you and Gia ran together. I knew you’d both be around same pace and goal so was secretly hoping this would happen! Now I wanna do a half soon…man, the running honeymoon I’m on right now is nuts. Anyways — AMAZING RACE! I’m inspired to be fast and free in my next one (whenever that is)!


  2. Such a fun recap!! I smiled the entire time I was reading it!! Congrats on a fantastic race!! I am so happy for you!! I knew it wouldn’t be long before you got sub-1:40!!! And a little redemption from last year doesn’t hurt either. I relinquished a bit of control by the Garmin this weekend too. I wore it and put it on the “time” screen, so if I thought about it, I would get splits, but nothing more. It was SO freeing and I found that I actually knew my pace better than I thought! Maybe us type-A, data-driven runners are on to something lately?

    CONGRATS speedy!!!


  3. Great, Great RUN!! I would love to ask you a question about your elevation jpg. – where do you get those from? Is there a website? thanks !


  4. I ran this race and PR’d as well! I saw you when I was in line for oranges and wanted to tell you I love love your blog, but had to mad dash to the porta potties after I ate sme warm watermelon ha! congrats on your PR!


  5. Congrats on the PR!! I was going to sign up for that race — a ton of people from my running group were there…but then my Clevelander Brother-in-law & his wife came out to visit this week. That and the 6am start requiring shuttles kept me away. I’m impressed you found parking near the start, I’ve biked through that park before and wouldn’t have even attempted race-morning parking there :) I agree that Ventura is fantastic for PRs. My last two half PRs were the Ventura City Impact Beachfront Half Marathon (June) & Santa to the Sea (Dec). Hoping my next will be there in September.


  6. Awesome recap Sarah. I’m doing Rock N Roll San Diego half this weekend, and I’m hoping I can finally sub-2 (after two half marathons that were 2:00:37 and 2:00:13 (seriously, 13 seconds?!)) This post was a helpful reminder that even though I’ve been feeling slow lately from marathoning, maybe just maybe I’ll show up on race morning ready to get that shit done.


  7. Hey Sarah..great meeting you at the finish. Congrats again on the PR! That course had some definite fast mojo. Sorry to have missed the beers afterward. Now the real question…what’s next?


  8. 1) Very entertaining race report, even with all the gory details! Glad you’re not kicking yourself for walking through the aid stations because not taking that break may have actually cost you MORE time in the end.

    2) Big time congrats on the PR!


  9. Pingback: Ojai, it was good while it lasted | run pretty run fast

  10. Pingback: The Start of a New-New Training Cycle–Race for the Rescues OC 10K recap | Once Upon a (L)ime


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